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During Darwin's Anniversary month and just in time for Valentine's Day, Taronga visitors can get in the mood for some animal attraction with a fascinating web lecture on the elaborate and sometimes deadly liaisons wildlife use to reproduce.

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Taronga's Research and Conservation Manager, Dr Rebecca Spindler, has spent many years delving into the courtship world of jungle love and will explain some of the most bizarre mating rituals. The unusual Valentine's Day themed lecture coincides with Darwin's Anniversary month, which marks the bicentenary of Charles Darwin's birth and 150 years since the publication of "Origin of the Species".

Rebecca said: "Whilst romance and Darwin may seem worlds apart, the way animals 'woo' and 'choose' each other to reproduce is the physical expression of Darwin's evolution,"

"Most females have evolved strategies to ensure they pick the best quality mate, whilst males have retaliated by evolving new strategies to spread the love. The result is an arms race between the sexes as their radar for an attractive mate evolves."

Rebecca's fascination with animal reproduction stems from her passion to conserve endangered animals. She has been working and researching in the field for almost 20 years and helped lead a Giant Panda reproduction program in China where male pandas were shown videos of pandas breeding to remind them about successful mating strategies.

"The Peacock is the poster child of sexual selection. This extravagant bird has evolved as females choose males with traits that fundamentally put the male at risk,"

"Females choose their male based on the length and symmetry of his plumage and the number of spots. These characteristics are an indication of the male's gene quality. Therefore females seek these males to sire their young as their offspring are more likely to have 'good' genes," said Rebecca.

To hear Rebecca's fascinating lecture jump on to Taronga's website www.taronga.org.au/wildsex to learn about the birds and the bees.

Taronga and Taronga Western Plains Zoos care for 4000 animals from over 350 species, provide conservation messages to over 1.5 million visitors and conservation education to over 100,000 school students annually. The Zoos also conduct a huge range of conservation research, breeding and in situ projects from Antarctica to Mongolia and throughout Australia and Asia, while providing wildlife health services to thousands of native animals each year

For more information contact Media Relations:

Ph: +61 2 9978 4606
Fax: +61 2 9978 4511
Email: tzpr@zoo.nsw.gov.au

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